A mass exodus from America’s public education system is underway.
Over the last year, more than one million students fled public schools. To be sure, teachers unions’ campaign to keep schools closed during the pandemic has driven many families away. But that’s not the only reason. Many are fleeing because educators are forcing a Marxist ideology down kids’ throats—the so-called “Critical Race Theory.”
By now you know the story. The teachers who should be helping our children learn math, science, and American history are instead teaching a revisionist version of our nation’s story—one that denies our country’s principles and actually tells kids to be racist. The average American parent can’t stand it. We have no tolerance for race-based lessons that tell kids to hate America, label themselves a “victim” or “oppressor” based on their skin color, and distrust classmates who don’t look like them.
Look no further than San Jose, California, where third graders were told to identify their race and sex and then recognize their “power and privilege.” Or to one of the 30 school districts in at least 15 different states teaching a book that says “whiteness” is the devil. If our schools continue down this path, it won’t be long before this divisive travesty rips our country apart.
To their credit, Republican lawmakers are advancing legislation at the state level to prevent schools from implementing curricula based in Critical Race Theory (CRT). Parents are even running for local school boards to replace CRT proponents. And some teachers have bravely spoken out—and risked their jobs in the process—against districts that preach this racist doctrine.
This is great news. The more angles from which Americans attack this dangerous orthodoxy, the better. But while the battle rages on, what do parents who don’t have time to run for their local school boards do?
If you’re like my family, you find a school that better aligns with your values—or at the very least, one that teaches kindergartners how to add and subtract instead of where they rank on the left’s victimhood scale. For this reason, we’re switching our kids from a public to private school this fall.
Unfortunately, many families face insurmountable hurdles that keep them from choosing a new school. Some don’t have charter or private schools near their house. Others don’t have the resources to homeschool or the time to transport kids to a school that’s further away. Many simply lack the money to pay private school tuition.
Sending kids to schools that give them a good education—and don’t promote political propaganda behind our backs—should not be this hard.
How do we fix it? School choice reform at the state and local level. This means giving education funding directly to families, so they can choose the best way to make sure their kids get a high-quality education, instead of using it to fund a broken school system that lets liberals turn students into anti-American activists.
Of course, these changes to America’s education system can’t happen overnight. But there are practical steps states can take now to give parents more options.
For starters, states and districts can let students attend whichever public school best matches their beliefs, rather than dictate where they learn based on their zip code. Only nine states have unrestricted open enrollment. All others place limits on which public schools kids can attend.
Open enrollment is just a starting point. State legislatures can also create or expand education savings account (ESA) and voucher programs—which give families who withdraw from public schools money they can use to cover education-related costs—such as homeschooling materials, private school tuition, tutoring, or even transportation to a public school outside their district. Another option is tax-credit scholarship programs, which give families similar freedoms through tax credits.
Every student has different skills, interests, and needs. Every family has different convictions—most of which aren’t dominated by race. States need to broaden the variety of schools and education resources available so families aren’t forced into schools that clash with their values.
Thanks to parents who are sick of public schools indoctrinating and deserting their kids during a pandemic, 2021 has already been a banner year for the school choice movement. 18 states have passed school choice legislation. In March, West Virginia passed a bill to create the nation’s largest ESA program. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA) recently signed a bill expanding a voucher program that helps students with special needs pay for tuition, uniforms, transportation, speech therapy, and other learning costs. And Kansas lawmakers made the state’s tax-credit scholarships available to more low-income families.
The school choice movement is about more than improving test scores or saving taxpayer money (though it does both). It’s about protecting vulnerable and trusting students from educators who want them to revolutionize against a country they’re being told is racist and evil.
Ask yourself this: What will America look like in 15 years when this generation’s students are running our businesses, leading our government, and teaching in classrooms. If we let radicals corrupt our kids in public schools today, the concept of the American dream will be erased. And of course, that’s the radicals’ best-case scenario.
Lawmakers and parents will keep pushing back. And over time, I’m hopeful we’ll win the battles to change school boards. But in the meantime, we need to support state-based reforms that open up more options for families and tie taxpayer dollars to students. In the face of this alarming assault on education, every parent deserves the right to choose where their children receive their education.
Tim Chapman is the Executive Director of Stand for America, an advocacy group dedicated to promoting public policies that strengthen America’s economy, culture, and national security.